Way back in 2010, a Tampa, Fla. native was embarking on his redshirt freshman season in Athens, Ga., looking to lead the Georgia Bulldogs to a successful season under then-head coach Mark Richt. That particular Plant High School product was coming off a redshirt season due to talented signal-caller and household name Joe Cox holding the reigns in 2009, but with him out of eligibility, it was his turn to don the red and black under center.
Who was that redshirt freshman you might ask?
Yes, that Aaron Murray.
The former five-star signed with Georgia and once he got his hands on the starting gig, he didn’t let go until his eligibility ran out. All he did in his first year under center was throw for 3,049 yards, 24 touchdowns, and complete 61 percent of his passes, leading the Bulldogs to a 6-6 regular season record and a berth in the Liberty Bowl against UCF.
Now, could Matt Corral do all that at Ole Miss? Absolutely. Let’s talk about it, shall we?
Both had similar builds coming out of high school.
Murray stood just 6’1 and tipped the scales at 198-pounds when he signed on National Signing Day. And he, too, was a U.S. Army All-American like Corral. That frame is a far cry from the 6’5, 225-pound frame that everyone drools over these days, but as you can see from the statistics listed above, he more than got it done.
You can also see that Matty Ice had a similar build coming out of Long Beach Poly High School. In fact, he had a similar skill set as well that a lot of Power 5 programs really liked. They even both have an affinity for eye black!
Now, the situations are certainly different and so is the offense, but the frame and arm talent are there in spades, as you know.
Now, what he does with it this season is up to him.
It’s Corral’s team now.
Murray is currently the SEC’s career touchdown leader, surpassing Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and Matthew Stafford during his time as quarterback for the Dawgs. He finished with a career record of 36-18 and helped Richt and Georgia win two SEC East titles. But before all that happened, he was given the keys to lead that team.
Corral has been given the same thing. He was taken to SEC Media Days and was labeled as the offense’s leader by head coach Matt Luke. It’s time for him to be a leader and take control, like Murray did.
Before he did all that in Athens, he was just a wide-eyed teenager like Corral. Then, all he did was take the opportunity that was afforded to him and make the most of it. Sure, there is pressure of a new scheme, a new coordinator, and a program that is desperate for something good to happen to them, but no one expects much and the schedule is certainly set up quite nicely for the Rebels to win four non-conference games and have a shot at two SEC games to finish with six wins.
Sure, it’s easier to just write about it here than to do it, but Corral has the goods right now on paper like Murray did and could surprise us all like he did nine years ago.
The supporting cast is deeper.
Aaron had the benefit of having a guy by the name of Adriel Jeremiah Green to throw to that year. He was very good at catching the football and scoring once he had it. Outside of him, you’d be hard-pressed to name another receiver on that Georgia team. Hell, even I had to look them up. Corral on the other hand, has a deeper cast.
The known commodities are Braylon Sanders, Elijah Moore, and Octavious Cooley. After them comes a bevy of newcomers who, despite being unproven, are eager to get their feet wet. Former four-stars Miles Battle, Demarcus Gregory, Jonathan Mingo, Dannis Jackson, and three-stars Jadon Jackson and Jordan Jernigan are the new crop of nWo recruits who are itching to impress their Hulk Hogan, receivers coach Jacob Peeler.
At running back, Washaun Ealey did most of the heavy-lifting for Georgia, running for 811 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Rebels will have a little bit of a deeper crew to help Corral get acclimated to SEC play in 2019.
Before suffering an injury, returning starter Scottie Phillips ran for 928 yards in 2018, scoring 12 touchdowns and averaging 6.1 yards a carry. Isaiah Woullard (428 yards, 4 touchdowns) is behind him, along with incoming freshmen Jerrion Ealy and Jarod “Snoop” Conner. Ealy, as you know, is a former five-star and top-30 player in the country and Conner is a 5’10, 215-pound bruiser who has impressed early on in fall camp.
And with Rich Rodriguez’s new look on offense, the run game is sure to open things up through the air, helping Corral get settled in operating through the air.
The new offense will open things up.
As mentioned above, Rodriguez’s new offense is going to play to its strengths. And that strength, as it stands before August 31st, is a returning starter at running back that was on pace to rush for 1,100 yards in 2018. That is a strength that I suspect Rich will lean on early on while Corral gets used to the new system in a live-game setting. But, as we’ve found out through diligent research and tireless effort, Rodriguez isn’t just about running the ball.
During his six years in Tuscon, Rodriguez never threw it more than he ran it and, guess what, that’s okay! The Rebels will need balance to ensure that people aren’t pinning their ears back and coming after Corral, expecting a five-step drop every other play. Phillips and Co. will be toting the rock, keeping linebackers and secondaries honest, giving Ole Miss ample opportunities to utilize play action and the art of deception via zone read concepts to help facilitate the pass game effectively for the first-year starter.
It can also open things in other areas as well.
All in all, yes I know it sounds a little farfetched to compare a never-before-starting quarterback to the dude who has more touchdowns than two Super Bowl MVPs and another NFL starter, but the similarities are glaring coming out of high school, the skill set and frame is damn-near identical, and the offense is certainly capable of opening things up for our handsome, tattoed son this season.
Yeah, I know, maybe it’s the bourbon getting to my head to draw this comparison but Murray, too, was once a never-before-starting quarterback in the Southeastern Conference with only a star rating to show you.
It worked out for Georgia. Who’s to say it won’t work out for Ole Miss? Good thing is, we get to find out in just a few weeks.